Review: Empire - The best show in town

The final act is one of the greatest pieces of circus or art performances ever seen in Auckland 

Empire Spiegleworld at Spiegletent,
Wynyard Quarter, Daldy St, Auckland
Until February 15 

If you are running short on time but want to see a spectacular show this summer aim to catch the last 10 minutes of Empire at the Spiegletent on the Auckland Waterfront.

The last act features Memet Bilgin Rigolo with a performance that combines remarkable skill, palpable drama and a hint of magic.

He starts by balancing a feather on the end of a piece of wood, progressively adding more supporting lengths until he creates an amazing space frame worthy of the sculptor Alexander Calder.

He keeps the audience captivated for 10 minutes, entranced by the audacity of his undertaking. This is one of the greatest pieces of circus or art performances seen in Auckland for many years.

He had previously shown his skills by balancing a spinning gyroscope on a piece of driftwood getting it to do almost impossible tricks. Unfortunately he made it look too easy to be fully appreciated.

Empire is billed as smashing through the borders of comedy, circus, vaudeville and burlesque but it also pushes the boundaries for audiences in being confronted with sexually provocative acts and physicality demanding demonstrations.

The show is a mixture of the risqué, the risky and the rude, offering a rollercoaster ride of inspiring, bewildering and riotous routines.

The first major act features an elegant young woman, Miss A, encased in a huge Perspex bubble where she performs the most incredible contortions. She also manages to open the two hemispheres apart with more amazing poses, twists and turns. 

Then Oscar and Fanny (Jonathan Taylor and Anne Goldman) do a series of quick costume changes inside a portable changing room in a performance which seemed to be more magic and illusion than circus. The speed and dexterity of the changes, however, overwhelmed Oscar, who made the wrong decision, ending up naked with his penis on full display.

His penis makes a further appearance later in the show in another routine involving Fanny and Ron, a volunteer from the audience who was unwise enough to get a seat in the front row.

Ron did a brilliant job of not having live sex on stage with Fanny (or Oscar) and had to endure conversations of a sexual nature with Fanny, who attempts to smother him with various parts of her body.

The Gorilla Girls, dressed in black stockings and lingerie as though they were there for a pole dance performance, engage in an edgy and provocative routine of balancing, supporting and lifting.

It’s the sort of act that would normally have the muscled male doing all the strong lifting and throwing but these woman have enough muscle and strength to do it themselves and they do it with real class, making elaborate constructions out of their brilliantly toned bodies.

Two Russians on rollerskates, Denis Petaov and Mariia Beseimbetova, perform like a couple of whirling Dervishes, spinning around on their small stage making sitting in the front row a dangerous place to be.

The one act that should be banned by Auckland Council food inspectors features Oscar and Fanny  in a fun-filled few moments eating bits of banana and then spitting them into each other’s mouths. Even a couple of audience members joined in passing on their germs and a few bodily fluids as well as the banana.

Eventually all the bits of banana ended up in Oscar’s mouth and the only way he is able to get rid of it is dribbling it into Fanny’s mouth. It’s a routine that would have endless possibilities on Masterchef.

Several other acts feature acrobats, contortionists and clowns making this an evening to remember for a long time.

There is some great live music, from guitarist Moondog (John Shannon) and singer Miss Purple (Victoria Matlock), who perform versions of "New Amsterdam," "First We Take Manhattan" and "Sunshine and Clarity."